What is a monk? Above all a monk is someone who listens. In a world flooded with nattering, chattering, vacuous noise the monk listens deeply and responds fully. Monastic listening is rooted and grounded in silence, in the place where we let go of the many competing voices and demands of our lives and find a place to hear the voice of God that is heard in silence.
The call to be a monk may first manifest itself in a desire to listen or a realization of how rarely most of us actually listen. The noise of our lives is pervasive. There are jobs to go to, children to care for, spouses to pay attention to. If that isn’t enough the cacophony of the internet, smart phones, television, all the screens in our lives compete for our attention and scream with distractions.
And most of us are happily distracted. We secretly glory in our busyness, we’re delighted to have one more excuse to avoid the hard work in front of us. The hard work may be jobs or family or it may be something even deeper. Listening is hard work but it is the foundation of soul work.
In listening we begin to hear our deepest desires, those secret hopes that we may be afraid to articulate. In deep listening we hear our desires to be loved, to have meaning, to care for others. In listening we hear the whispers of God beckoning us to follow our desires to the place where we can all become whole.
St. Benedict, the founder of western monasticism began his guidebook on the monastic way with these words: “Listen my child to the master’s instructions and attend to them with the ear of your heart.” Many people are called to be monks, to seek God above all else in their lives, and listening with the ear of the heart is the first step.
Perhaps it is time: Listen. Be silent. Be open. What is your heart saying?